Coaching has become the single most important competency for sales managers to learn and optimally, they should spend 50% of their time coaching their salespeople. It is also the single most difficult sales management competency to learn and master.
In this post, we will review the skills that contribute to sales coaching effectiveness and introduce a sales coaching process any sales manager can implement immediately to coach sales behaviors.
Sales Coaching Skills
The challenge for most sales managers or sales leaders is to have the ability to exhibit and execute these sales coaching skills of being an effective leader: Strong identity, self-assurance, credible authority, knowledge, and a foundational vision, mission, and goal orientation. Strong leaders do not need to be in the spotlight, do not act like they know it all, and ask questions instead of always providing answers.
There are assessments in the marketplace to help people identify if they have what it takes. We use Objective Management Group’s Sales Manager Evaluation. OMG identifies these specific sales coaching skills that a sales leader must master:
One of the most difficult skills for most sales managers to overcome is their need for approval from their salespeople. Coaching is different than managing and requires clear direction, discussion, examples, and even demonstration of what is expected of a salesperson. This can be hard for a manager, who also wants their team to like them. They may not want to come off as critical. Coaching sales behaviors is an art, not a science and a sales leader must be adept at asking, listening, and staying focused on developing salespeople to be their best.
Another skill of strong sales leaders is asking questions versus telling a salesperson what to do. In coaching sales behaviors, how you say something can be more important than what you say. Instead of saying “You should have asked your prospect about their current provider”, you could ask “What did you find out about their current provider?” Asking questions will allow salespeople to self-discover, which is the most effective learning mode.
It goes without saying that you must coach to a sales process. If there is not an established stage-based sales process for qualifying and closing prospects, how can a sales manager coach sales behaviors?
Coaching Sales Behaviors with a Sales Coaching Process
It is important that sales managers set aside specific time for intentional coaching, not just coaching to a specific deal or proposal. Consider putting time on the calendar weekly for 1-on-1 coaching with salespeople that can be used to prepare for an upcoming call or debrief after a recent sales call. But you must follow a sales coaching process. Here is the approach we recommend and use with our clients below. All of these steps can be done remotely, using virtual tools like Zoom so no excuses!
Gaining insight is all about what is happening in the field on a sales call or what is not happening. You can gain insight firsthand by observing a call or gather it from huddle data where you review sales behaviors and results. For example, how many calls and appointments are your salespeople supposed to make, and what were their results in a certain timeframe? Then, most importantly, what behaviors did your salespeople exhibit to get those results and if not to goal, how will they change their sales behaviors? We recommend the coach ask their salespeople “What would you do differently if you could not use that as an excuse?”
Giving Feedback is when coaching sales behaviors gets more difficult. Here are a few tips:
- Makes sure feedback is timely and specific
- Review the Good, Bad & Ugly (find something good to point out)
- Ask questions to help them self-discover
- Gain agreement on the real problem
Demonstration of the sales behaviors you want and expect can be hard for many sales leaders because they may not have come out of a sales role but they can demonstrate the questions needed to be asked and the sales approach that should be followed. We call this the Shadow of the Leader. To effectively coach sales behaviors sales leaders must identify the gaps, demonstrate the desired behavior and instruct on the critical steps.
Roleplay is never anyone’s favorite activity but once the sales manager has demonstrated the sales behavior, it is important to have the salesperson role play. Don’t call it role play, just name it a practice session but make sure they do it. Muscle memory needs repetition!
Action Plan is putting the learning into action. Is the salesperson going to call the prospect back and ask those additional questions about their current provider? Make certain to identify specific actions that will take place, set a follow-up to discuss the outcomes, inspect, then coach their sales behaviors again. And don’t forget to celebrate the success and address the failures.
Coaching sale behaviors is an all-the-time effort. Are you devoting 50% of your time to developing your team?
Founder & Chief Learning Officer, Tony Cole